Support UVA Students' Demands Post Aug 11 & 12
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We, the undersigned faculty, graduate students, staff, alumni, and others, stand in solidarity with and support of the demands made by a broad coalition of student groups* after the events of August 11th and 12th. These demands are not just an appropriate response to a horrific set of events, but constitute a step on the greater path of justice and healing. They move us towards acknowledging and dismantling the long and ongoing history of white supremacy, slavery, land theft, and genocide that lies in the very foundations of our University. As one of these student groups, Students United, notes, these demands are not a complete list of everything that the University of Virginia must do to meet the needs of students traumatized and threatened by the weekend’s events, nor will enacting them fully redress the history of white supremacy in our institution. But they are a good place to start.
On Friday, August 11th, white supremacist domestic terrorists stormed Grounds and attacked student counter-protesters with fists, torches, pepper spray, and lighter fluid. A UVA librarian who stood with these students later had a stroke, very likely as a direct result of blunt force trauma from the attack. Community members who congregated in the church across the street for a peaceful, anti-racist prayer service underwent a lockdown after receiving numerous threats, including from a gunman. Police arrived en mass only after the white supremacists had left and threatened to arrest the students if they did not immediately disperse, even as medics treated the injured.
Neither the attack on University Grounds, nor the terrorism of the following day should come as a surprise. White supremacists have been calling for violence in Charlottesville on fascist websites for weeks. The police response targeting student counter-protesters also has precedent, including CPD actions during the July 8th KKK rally. University administrators should have seen this coming and acted to protect our students.
Institutional responses from the UVA administration have been shameful. In her letters following the August 11th attack, President Sullivan defended the white supremacists’ presence on Grounds, citing “the general public’s right to access outdoor spaces,” and framed the events in terms of “physical violence ensuing” in an “encounter” between “torch-bearing protesters” and counter-protesters. She also thanks the police, whose actions did not protect members of our community. President Sullivan’s response fundamentally misconstrues what happened: that our students were assaulted by white supremacist domestic terrorists. Moreover, it shirks the University’s responsibility to students terrorized by white supremacists and avoids taking accountability for failing them on August 11th.
However, we should be proud to count these students among us, those who stood with such bravery and resolve in the face of white supremacist terror and violence. We ourselves must do better, naming these people as white supremacists, fascists, and domestic terrorists. We must acknowledge that they attacked our students and threatened a peaceful prayer service across the street, and that police prepared to arrest our students when they should have been protecting them. The University must take responsibility for failing our students on August 11th and step up now to support them and the profound change that they work to achieve.
It is time to make things right. We urge the UVa administration to take action and meet the demands advanced by this coalition of student groups. Complete lists of demands are available on the Students United and Black Student Alliance's [BSA's updated demands here] Facebook pages, and include:
- All Confederate and colonizer monuments and plaques on and around Grounds must be removed. An appropriate place would be in a museum or in Special Collections.
- Declare the Lawn a residential space. Concealed arms and open flames should not be allowed within this space.
- White supremacist hate groups, particularly UVA alumni Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer, should be explicitly denounced and banned from campus. They have already incited and perpetuated violence against students past the point of free speech.
- Acknowledge the $1,000 gift to the University’s Centennial Fund received from the KKK in 1921; re-invest this amount, adjusted for inflation, into existing UVA and Charlottesville multicultural organizations; and include this racist history at UVA into education surrounding the Bicentennial.
- All students, regardless of area of study, should have required education (either inside or outside the classroom) on white supremacy, colonization, and slavery as they directly relate to Thomas Jefferson, the University, and the city of Charlottesville. The current curriculum changes only affect the College of Arts and Sciences and allow students to focus in on aspects of difference of their choice.
- UVA's historical landscape must be balanced. The statue of Jefferson serves as an emblem of white supremacy, and should be re-contextualized with a plaque to include that history. Additionally, more buildings named after prominent white supremacists, eugenicists, or slaveholders should be renamed after people of marginalized groups.
- Former KKK leader David Duke and alt-right leader Richard Spencer both stayed at the Boar's Head Inn, a UVA hotel, this past weekend. Those profits, and more, should be redirected to cover the medical expenses of students harmed during this weekend's terror.
- Expand the working group on the University's response to the events of Aug. 11-12, 2017 to represent students of color and those affected by the violence of Aug. 11-12.
- As of last year, the percentage of African American undergraduate students enrolled in the University was 6.4%. The University must take action to ensure that as a public university, this number is reflective of state demographics at a 12% proportion. Given the impact of recent events, action on this step is crucial.
- In 2016, the percentage of African American faculty was 3%. This percentage is unacceptable and disproportionate to the number of African American students. This disparity exists across all minority groups. Thus, proportion of faculty for an underrepresented group should strive to match the proportion of the student population of that group at minimum.
- Issue a strategic and actionable diversity plan, with input sourced from minority student leadership, as done by other peer institutions such as Georgetown University, Brown University, and Virginia Tech. This plan should include a special emphasis on improving diversity and inclusion for faculty, staff, and students of color, as well as relations with the Charlottesville community.
We support the students in these demands and in their efforts to actualize them at the University. We also call on faculty, graduate students, and staff to mobilize additional efforts that put pressure on the administration and help realize the larger spirit of these demands, and those published by community organizations such as Solidarity Cville, within our respective roles as teachers, mentors, scientists, and community members.
*The UVA student groups advancing these demands include: the Black Student Alliance (BSA), Minority Rights Coalition (MRC), UVA Students United, United for Socioeconomic Diversity (UFUSED), Latinx Student Association (LSA), Queer Student Union (QSU), Asian Leaders Council (ALC), Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC), Memorial for Enslaved Laborers (MEL), Native American Student Union (NASU), Muslim Students Association (MSA), Feminism is for Everyone (FIFE), Asian Student Union (ASU), National Organization for the Association of Colored People (NAACP), DREAMers On Grounds, Organization of Young Filipino Americans (OYFA), Global Student Council (GSC), Afro-Latinx Student Organization (ALSO), Community, Advocacy, Leadership, and Empowerment (CALE), National Lawyers Guild at UVA Law, Women of Color at UVA Law, Indian Student Association (ISA), Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Student Council (StudCo), The Living Wage Campaign at UVA, Graduate History Students Association (GHSA), Animal Justice Advocates (AJA), Graduate Student Coalition for Liberation (GSCL), Black Law Student Association (BLSA), and University Democrats (UDems)
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